André Leon Talley, a pioneering fashion journalist and American Vogue’s first Black creative director, has died in New York at the age of 73.
The announcement of Talley’s death was posted on his Instagram but did not detail the cause of death.
“Over the past five decades as an international icon [he] was a close confidant of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, Diane von Furstenberg, Bethann Hardison, Manolo Blahnik and he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers,” the statement said.
His illustrious career, which began in 1974, saw him work across various publications before entering Vogue in 1983, which would lead to his defining role as the creative director from 1988 to 1995, making him the first African American man to hold the position.
A trailblazing figure in fashion journalism, Talley is credited as a pivotal figure in Vogue’s ascension to fashion bible status.
Talley became an icon in his own right, known for his “larger-than-life” personality to compliment his 6-foot-7-inch frame — which he often draped with decadent capes, robes, and kaftans.
His death has prompted an outpouring of tributes from friends, peers, and those who admired him in various social circles.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg wrote: “No one saw the world in a more elegant and glamorous way than you did, no one was more soulful and grander than you were, the world will be less joyful now. I have loved you and laughed with you for 45 years…. I will miss your loud screams and your loyal friendship…I love you soooo much.”
“R.I.P dearest Andre. Without you, there would be no me. Thank you for paving the way,” wrote British Vogue editor Edward Enninful, who is the first Black person to head up the UK edition of the magazine.
On Wednesday morning, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who'd had a turbulent relationship with Talley for years (he left the magazine after their reported fallout) spoke of his joy of fashion and their friendship.
“The loss of André is felt by so many of us today: the designers he enthusiastically cheered on every season, and who loved him for it; the generations he inspired to work in the industry, seeing a figure who broke boundaries while never forgetting where he started from; those who knew fashion, and Vogue, simply because of him; and, not forgetting, the multitude of colleagues over the years who were consistently buoyed by every new discovery of André’s, which he would discuss loudly, and volubly—no one could make people more excited about the most seemingly insignificant fashion details than him," she said in a statement published in Vogue. “Yet it’s the loss of André as my colleague and friend that I think of now; it’s immeasurable. He was magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny—mercurial, too. Like many decades-long relationships, there were complicated moments, but all I want to remember today, all I care about, is the brilliant and compassionate man who was a generous and loving friend to me and to my family for many, many years, and who we will all miss so much.”
Supermodel and actor Milla Jovovich expressed her shock at the news before going on to describe Talley as one of the “most genuinely wonderful humans” she had ever met.
The Resident Evil star said she had felt particularly lucky to have experienced Talley’s kindness “because good people are few and far between in this business."
Director Ava DuVernay noted her own experience of Talley’s kindness and long-standing support by recalling his attendance at a launch for her popular series Queen Sugar.
“He came to support and to cheer me on after all the years that had passed," she wrote. "He was lavish and loving. I’ll remember him fondly.”
His memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, published in 2020, detailed his growth to the highest echelons of fashion and what it was like to work in institutions entrenched in white supremacy.
“The tower of strength of my Blackness is my body of knowledge in memory and in experience, and therefore I am unique,” he said in a 2020 interview with W magazine. “When you speak of me, you must speak about my talents and knowledge, and that I also shared that knowledge and experiences of my education through the fashion world.”
Correction: The title of Talley's memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, was misstated in a previous version of this post.